Junction pipe company sold

Ron Tipping, left, former co-owner and general manager of Grand Junction Pipe and Supply, talks with Ken Beard, an employee of more than 20 years, at a plant on the west part of the Redlands. Tipping recently sold the company to a firm based in Washington, D.C.

GJ pipe sells 062711

Ron Tipping, left, former co-owner and general manager of Grand Junction Pipe and Supply, talks with Ken Beard, an employee of more than 20 years, at a plant on the west part of the Redlands. Tipping recently sold the company to a firm based in Washington, D.C.

For many Grand Valley residents, Grand Junction Pipe and Supply creates its biggest impression with its eye-catching, award-winning Christmas parade floats, designed and built by employees and displayed outside the company’s office on the Interstate 70 Business Loop.

But even if it’s less obvious or well-known, the concrete and plastic manufacturer and distributor’s handiwork in western Colorado extends far beyond an annual appearance at holiday events. It’s featured in the largest public works initiative in Grand Junction’s history, in a project to prevent Mesa Mall and surrounding homes and businesses from flooding and in most golf courses on the Western Slope.

And after operating for more than 50 years under the supervision of one family, Grand Junction Pipe and Supply has changed ownership.

Owners Ron and Marie Tipping sold the company June 10 to Washington, D.C.-based Summit Materials, a transaction that includes all divisions of Grand Junction Pipe and Supply and the company’s two retail locations in Grand Junction and five retail locations across the Western Slope.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

In an interview Monday, Ron Tipping said a combination of age and the uncertainty of the economy convinced his wife and him that now was the time to act on something they’d contemplated for four or five years. Leaving an industry they’ve known most of their lives isn’t easy, though.

“When you’ve been doing something for 50 years and you walk away, it takes a little adjusting,” he said.

Tipping, 70, said while he and his wife will retire, the company will retain its name and its roughly 170 employees.

He said he expects Summit Materials to make some changes, although he doesn’t know what they will be. He anticipates that a current employee will run the business’ day-to-day operations.

The sale of Grand Junction Pipe and Supply marks the third time in a little more than two months that a local, longtime construction-related company has sold to an out-of-area firm.

The sales of Harbert Lumber to Denver-based ProBuild and Elam Construction to Summit Materials were announced in April.

Established in 2009, Summit Materials was formed to acquire and grow building materials companies, according to its website. It has purchased a number of firms across the nation in the last year and is financed by venture capital firms The Blackstone Group and Silverhawk Capital Partners.

Officials with Summit Materials didn’t return a call seeking comment Monday.

Grand Junction Pipe and Supply was founded in 1958 by Marie Tipping’s parents, Boots and Muriel Corn, as a subsidiary of Corn Construction.

Boots Corn was performing water and sewer line work and needed parts but couldn’t find any in the valley, so he started Grand Junction Pipe and Supply, Ron Tipping said.

The Tippings, with Marie serving as president and chief executive officer and Ron as executive vice president and general manager, took over the company in 1977.

What began as a manhole cover and small-diameter concrete pipe manufacturer has expanded over the years into a purveyor of irrigation pipes and supplies, ready-mix concrete, and sand and gravel.

Grand Junction Pipe and Supply provided materials for the $110 million Riverside Parkway project.

A $16 million “Big Pipe” project removed nearly 400 residential and commercial properties from a 100-year floodplain near the mall and McPhee Reservoir in southwestern Colorado.

If virtually any golf course on the Western Slope uses Rainbird sprinklers to irrigate its tee boxes, fairways and greens, those supplies came from Grand Junction Pipe and Supply.

Employee longevity is one of the business’ hallmarks. Sixty-nine of the 170 employees have been with the company for at least 10 years.

“We gave them room to make decisions on their own,” Tipping said, citing employees as the business’ strength.

“They knew they were making a positive impact and I think that’s what kept them on.”

The company that once employed more than 300 people peaked at $93 million in sales in 2008, according to Tipping. Like most businesses, it took a hit with the recession, although it is recovering.

“We’re in a lot better position this year than we were last year,” Tipping said.

He said Grand Junction Pipe and Supply began negotiating the sale with Summit Materials about six months ago.

He pointed to his belief that Summit Materials will run Grand Junction Pipe and Supply much like it’s run and Summit Materials’ ability to weather economic downturns as reasons for selling to it.

“This company (Summit) can handle adverse times better than we can,” he said.

Tipping thanked Grand Junction Pipe and Supply’s customers for their support of the business over the years and said he hopes they continue their patronage under the new ownership group.

Likewise, he said he and Marie plan to keep in touch with the company.

“Our hearts belong there,” he said. “It’s a funny feeling having sold, but we’ll start a new life, I guess.”

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